In Anderson, a dedicated community is working to make sure that students with less than ideal living situations have the same access to education as their peers.
“Today in Anderson, there’s going to be about 500 kids after school who don’t know who’s going to pick them up and where they’re going to stay tonight,” said Capt. Rob Dolby of The Salvation Army in Anderson.
For years, the Anderson County school systems has been caring for homeless students. In recent years, the number of families without a permanent or adequate place to sleep has increased, according to Dolby and Lisa Butler, who is the homeless and foster care liaison for Anderson County District 5 Schools.
Butler cares for 218 students from 118 families, which is up from the 60 homeless children she said she helped when she started in her job 16 years ago.
“I help do referrals for housing. We also provide educational services like book bags, school supplies, toiletries, clothing, cap and gown, [and ]field trips,” Butler said.
She’s been working behind the scenes for a long time, but this week, her work has gotten a lot of attention. A social media post surfaced, saying Westside High School is caring for 40 homeless students and housing them in apartments across the street from the campus. Butler told 7 News the post has prompted an outpouring of support, but it turns out that the post isn’t entirely accurate.
“That’s not correct,” Butler said when asked about the claim of the district housing the students in apartments. “We have 40 identified students at Westside. But they’ve all been housed, there’s no one on the streets.”
She said some of them may be staying with family members or in shelters that work with the district, such as The Salvation Army.
“We partner to make sure that those kids have a seamless experience from experiencing homelessness to being back in the class,” Dolby said.
Although inaccurate information has been spread on social media, the response has been wonderful, Butler said.
“Everybody wants to help, and they don’t know how to help,” she said. “So that’s what I’m getting, ‘what can I do?’ It’s just showing that the community loves our children and wants to help the ones that are in need.
You can reach out to counselors at individual schools to ask what items are needed for homeless students. You can also reach Lisa Butler at email@example.com for more information on donations.